Installing GNU/Linux on a Asus S5200N sub-notebook

Stefan Merten
26 Februar 2015


This is a report about installing GNU/Linux on a Asus S5200N sub-notebook.

General remarks


The Asus S5200N is really a nice and light machine. I bought the bigger version with Pentium M 1600, 512MB RAM and 60GB disk. It is a Centrino notebook.

This sub-notebook has only a hard disk installed and comes with an external USB 2.0 DVD-R/CD-RW. Thus it is perfectly equipped for a sub-notebook which is mainly used while traveling. At the moment I use it five days a week about 3 hours each in train and I'm still delighted :-) .

One of the rarely seen advantages for Free Software fans is that this sub-notebook can be ordered without operating system. I.e. no M$ tax when you don't need Windows anyway :-) . This is one of the reasons why it is also cheap - and why I bought it.

I also like the concept of the three sorts of accumulators available for this model. They have 3, 6 and 9 cells built in and run time is accordingly. The small one with 3 cells is the default equipment. With my (very resource friendly use) it runs for up to two hours. The bigger one with 6 cells I bought in addition protrudes a bit on the back side - which I find in no way annoying. It runs for four hours for me. This way on my daily trip I need no power adapter and can recharge at home. Unfortunately the accumulators can not be changed while running.

In addition the Asus S5200N looks really nice. Meanwhile several persons in the train asked me about this nice machine because they liked the design and the small form factor.

The only real drawback is the positioning of the Fn key which is located in the lower left corner of the keyboard - where in German PC keyboards usually a control key is. Because this key is not reported to the operating system it can't be remapped in X :-( . Otherwise I find the keyboard (18mm keys) perfectly usable. I routinely switch between the laptop keyboard and normal ones and have no problems. Also I'm typing with ten fingers which is also no problem.


The Asus S5200N also has a full set of interfaces including

Included things

The laptop also comes with a wireless, optical USB mouse. I tried it once and it worked. I guess it can be used with another computer as well.

Also there are two bags coming with the laptop. One bag is a small one which is more like a padded etui to be put into another bag. This I'm using on a daily basis. The other bag is a full-blown shoulder bag which in itself is a useful thing.

The optical USB drive already mentioned can (probably) be used with every computer. Asus delivers a special cable which connects the optical drive with one of the USB ports and an additional power supply directly besides this port. This way the optical drive does not need an additional power supply and can be used while traveling. However, the manual says you can use an external power supply and use the optical drive with another computer. I.e. a free USB DVD-R/CD-RW drive for your desktop.

Actually this is something I like very much with Asus: They don't cripple their hardware to force you to buy some extra expensive adapter or the like from them.

Installation with kernel 2.4.21

Distribution and kernel

I installed SuSE 9.0 which is delivered with kernel 2.4.21. In general there were no real problems. Of course all operations need to be done as user root.

ACPI support, however, in this kernel is not as mature as one would wish for. Thus the following is with ACPI disabled except where noted.


Because the optical drive is external booting from CD is an issue. However, in the BIOS setting I changed the Boot device priority to

and SuSE booted without any problem.


There are reports that without further measures booting fails with Knoppix, Libranet and Mepis(?). I also tried an older Knoppix and simple booting indeed failed.

For Libranet the solution is to enter linux usbcd at the boot prompt.

A Knoppix 3.4 booted even(?) from DVD without problems and both kernels.

For Knoppix 3.6 someone suggested this solution:

For Knoppix 3.7 the 2.6 kernel makes trouble on booting while the 2.4 kernel runs smoothly.

If you have further solutions for this, please write to me so I can add the solution here.

Basic installation

The basic installation was no problem for the really important things.


Installation recognized Asustek RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ (rev 16) and configured it correctly.

However, in my home LAN I noticed that the internal network adapter did not auto-negotiated the protocol correctly with my old 10MBit hub resulting in extremely low transfer speed . mii-tool said "eth0: autonegotiation failed, link ok". I created a file /etc/sysconfig/network/scripts/mii-tool-F containing:

mii-tool --force 10baseT-HD "$1"

In /etc/sysconfig/network/ifcfg-eth0 I added a line


so this is reconfigured on boot.


Installation recognized Intel Corp. 82801DB AC'97 Modem Controller (rev 3). I didn't use it so far so I can't say whether this Winmodem(?) works.

Graphics adapter

The installation recognized a Intel Corp. 82852/855GM Integrated Graphics Device (rev 2).

The driver basically worked but when switching from X to the first console you get only colored patterns. Other consoles stay black. I added vga=normal during boot which solved the problem.

If a monitor / beamer is attached to the VGA port you get some colored dirt at the very top of both display when switching back to X. There seems to be a bug in the X server for this chip. However, it can be solved by closing and re-opening the lid.

I changed the X configuration using SaX2. I set the monitor to LCD with 1024X768@70HZ. This is the resolution of the built in 12" LCD and this resolution works with every beamer I saw during the last years.

When VGA is active it duplicates the LCD which is perfect for my use. I did not try twin head operation or different resolutions.


Installation recognized a Intel Corp. 82801DB AC'97 Audio Controller (rev 3)

Configuring the sound card actually was a problem. It worked and then again it stopped working...

To make a long story short: I removed the default ALSA driver and used the OpenSoundSystem (OSS) driver according to a similar description at, second option.

Note: As far as I know until 9.0 SuSE added the OSS drivers to their kernel. I don't know about other distributions and if OSS is not built into your kernel your mileage may vary.

alias char-major-14 off
alias sound off
alias midi off
alias char-major-14 i810_audio
# alias sound off
# alias midi off
i810_audio             22972   0 (autoclean)
ac97_codec             10516   0 (autoclean) [i810_audio]
soundcore               3588   0 (autoclean) [i810_audio]

The built-in microphone works but has the usual problems of microphones built into a laptop (somewhat noisy, hard disk movement hearable). An external electret microphone worked but needed the full amplification. I did not test with dynamic microphones. I did not dare to use the microphone port for line-in.

Unfortunately the built-in microphone seemingly is not switched off even when there is an external microphone connected.


The touchpad normally works in emulation mode and emulates a PS/2 mouse. This works ok but if you type you'll soon note another standard problem of notebook touchpads: While typing you touch it with your thumb once in a while. Of course this is extremely annoying if working with a modern window based system.

However, there is an explicit driver for the Synaptics touchpad. There is a driver included in the SuSE kernel already (version 0.11.3) but it has less functionality than I wanted.

So I got version 0.13.2 from the Internet and translated and installed it as described in the documentation of this package. Now I have a mouse wheel emulation on the right edge of the touchpad which is handy at times. However, what is really useful is the syndaemon which under X switches the touchpad off as soon as there is typing and on again after two seconds of non-typing.


I looked at but this needs kernel 2.4.26+ or 2.6.4+ which I do not have installed.

So I turned to Via I downloaded ndiswrapper-0.9.tar.gz. Via I downloaded which contains the Windoze driver (brrr...).

I installed according to INSTALL and things worked as they should. I now have wlan0 by driver w70n51. I chose yast2 to setup the network interface. As expected I needed to configure a yet undetected card.

This configuration worked in an arbitrary WLAN.

On Fedora Core 3 someone reported for an M5Np (similar model) that V0.13 of the worked for him after making, installing and putting the latest firmware to /lib/firmware.

ACPI and so on

The Asus S5200N boots with ACPI enabled but there is a problem which drives the keventd crazy. You note this effect when with no other activity CPU usage rises to 100%, the ventilator starts and outputs a constant stream of hot air at the left side. The machine still works but is awfully slow. This effect pops up erratically regardless whether on or off power and once it is there only a reboot solves the problem.

In other words: ACPI is not usable with this kernel.

Using ACPI

However, I tried it a bit and in case you feel experimental here are some traps you can prevent.

I installed acpi4asus in version 0.28 from but this didn't change much - and it is not expected to do so. I guess it would make the special speed key above the keyboard in the left top corner available and may be also the WLAN LED at the front edge of the machine but without working ACPI this module can not do much.

If you switch ACPI on the machine boots but shuts down again before it is really up. I removed thermal from ACPI_MODULES in /etc/sysconfig/powermanagement and the startup continued uninterrupted.

The good thing is: The only thing I need ACPI for really is checking the status of the accumulator when I'm expect it to run out soon. However, in my standard usage this does not happen and so I have really no need for ACPI.

Not using ACPI

Unfortunately Asus did not build APM into the BIOS. With the notebook I used previously I used APM and that way it was easy to monitor the accumulator.

However, the BIOS is intelligent enough to do most of the things that ACPI makes configurable alone when ACPI is not used. In particular:

That's nearly everything you can wish for :-) .

When not using ACPI when resuming from Standby mode USB does not work always.

Installation with kernel 2.6.20

I installed KUbuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) which uses a 2.6.20 kernel. The following things worked fine from scratch:

So far I did not test:

Memory card interface

With kernel 2.6.20 I tried a Micro SD card in an adapter. The card is recognized but unfortunately the SD card reader chip is probably an Ricoh Co Ltd RL5c476 II which is not supported by this kernel. Thus so far memory cards are not supported.

CPU scaling

CPU scaling works just fine.

If you use cpufreq you need to name the Centrino module explicitly in /etc/default/cpufreqd by CPUFREQ_CPU_MODULE="speedstep-centrino".


With this kernel ACPI works to an acceptable degree. All the information about the devices including battery charge can be obtained.

Sleep mode works once but if you try it a second time the laptop doesn't wake up again :-( .

Hibernation I did not try so far.


You can contact Stefan Merten (that's me) at

smerten at oekonux dot de

If my description helped you it would be nice if you drop me a line :-) . Also if you have better information please tell me and I publish it here.

$Id: asus_s5200n.sdf,v 1.13 2015/02/26 20:56:19 stefan Exp $